In a paper published in The Lancet Researchers are calling for a national NHS slimming service after finding that patients could lose up to 21lb (9.5kg) if a family doctor took 30 seconds to book them into Weight Watchers or similar schemes, i.e. non-medical intervention.
When it comes to ensuring individuals make major lifestyle changes to combat conditions such as obesity, hypertension and smoking, it seems the “white coat” of the medical expert can be a hindrance to a successful outcome.
Psychologically the “patient” abdicates responsibility for their condition to the expert, whether it is a doctor, nurse or the healthcare system itself. For a successful outcome individuals need to maintain responsibility for their own health. If fact becoming a “patient” is part of this detrimental process. “Patients” are seen as somebody that is broken and needs fixing. Somebody who is passive, wounded, subservient and vulnerable. There is a stigma attached to being sick, which can be depressing and demoralising. This leads to demotivation at a time when motivation is exactly what is required. The medical messages of doom and destruction, unless the “patient” mends their ways, are also counterproductive. All in all, a downward spiral.
A better solution is to assign a “lifestyle coach” (who could be a medical expert by another name). This reduces stigma and makes the “individual” (now not a patient) feel more positive. Which is more palatable? Having a nurse, with associations of decrepitude and bath chairs, or a coach? Coaches should return power and authority to the individual and deliver positive lifestyle messages – i.e. do you want to have more energy? Do you want to be more attractive? Do you want a better sex life? Do you want better and more refreshing sleep?
Psychometric testing can help to elucidate the individuals’ strengths and weaknesses and establish their attitudes towards food, exercise, stress, wellness, alcohol, drugs etc. The coach can then tailor the lifestyle change programme and use an individual’s strengths to help overcome their weaknesses.
Lifestyle is not a medical condition, even if it may lead to one. Responsibility for weight loss, exercise, better diet, sleep and other lifestyle conditions should be taken out of the medical arena and returned to the individual. There will be better results and savings for the over stretched Healthcare budget.